I’d Plus One That! Why I Think Google’s Shared Endorsements Are a Good Thing for Social Media, Influencers and Consumers

Are You On Google+ Yet?  If You're Not You Should Be

There’s been a lot of talk today online about the upcoming change in Google’s TOS that will allow them to begin selling ads with your endorsement of various products and services on the web. I’ve seen different reactions from some people who dislike this idea and others who are largely apathetic about it.

Because Google gives everyone an opportunity to opt out of shared endorsements, it’s easy to dismiss a lot of the criticism by simply pointing folks to how easy opting out is. Some people are very anti-advertising though and certainly this new advertising channel will naturally be met by some with healthy skepticism. It’s also worth noting that these ads are not going to appear on Google+. Google+ will remain ad free. The new ads simply will use Google+ data to advertise in places where Google is already advertising, like search.

Personally speaking, for myself, I embrace change. In general I’d rather see more change, than less. I think change represents innovation (usually) and I probably tend to look for the positive in change rather than the negative. I’m a glass half full sort of guy when it comes to change.

I think most of us see how today’s announced change in the TOS is good for businesses who advertise. Personal endorsements by our friends are incredibly powerful motivators. Ads which feature personal endorsements by people we know, trust and respect, will be far more effective than other ads that an advertiser might come up with.

I think we can also see where this new product would be good for Google. Google gets paid by the click. If they can run ads that produce way more clicks and are more effective, it would seem to stand that they can make more money selling ads. The more clickable an ad the more revenue per page view it represents.

The last part of this equation though is the user, and I think a lot of people are trying to figure out if this is a good, bad, or indifferent thing for the user.

My opinion is that this is a good thing for the user and here’s why.

1. I believe that this change will push brands, products, services, businesses, etc. to allocate more of their marketing budgets towards social media and social media influencers than in the past. It’s ridiculous to me how much money companies like Canon and Nikon and other old brands, that just don’t get it, spend on things like tired old photography magazines and traditional print media vs. social media.

Social media is the future. By increasing the value of our possible endorsements through advertising buys, companies will spend more time, effort and money to court social influencers.

My favorite lens is the Canon 135 f/2. I love that lens so much. By allowing Canon the opportunity to buy that love in the form of a Google ad and promote it, that gives Canon a more powerful incentive to work with me to be more public about my love for this lens. I love lots of other things too. I’m not shy about telling folks when I like something. I had dinner last night at A 16 in Oakland, and it rocked. I like to spread the good word.

I predict that individuals with large followings on G+ will increasingly be seen as potential partners for brands whose products they use. If you consider yourself a social media type, this will be one more important reason why you’ll want to devote time to building out your presence on G+.

There will be a risk of course that some influencers will be bought off by brands for positive endorsements, but I think most of the time this stuff is pretty easy to sniff out. It’s the true, authentic, natural posts (available for purchase after the fact as ads) that will be most valuable. I bet brands spend more time showing us their cool new tech and products as the value of these ads become apparent and more of their budgets are spent on promoting products to G+ users.

2. When a company buys an ad with your endorsement, this is one more place that your social media footprint is shared on the web. I’m not sure if the endorsements will actually link back to your profile or the actual product review itself, but as I’ve seen it, it will at least include your name and your avatar.

One of the reasons why I never change my avatar is that I believe having a strong avatar that is consistent over the years with your brand helps you build recognition. When I see Robert Scoble’s avatar, I immediately know that it is him — I’m biased of course because I took the photo Robert uses for his avatar. 🙂

Even faster than I can read Robert’s name, I know it’s him.

When Facebook first started showing brands that your friends liked, Robert jumped right on that bandwagon. For about 2 months every time I logged into Facebook, I was seeing another brand that Robert liked. Were the brands paying Facebook for that? Probably. But it also constantly reminded me of a good friend and also linked back to him in the like. I have to admit that I ended up liking a lot of the same brands Robert did, when it was something I really liked.

3. Knowing that one of my friend’s has endorsed a product helps *me* make buying decisions. Let’s say I’m in the market to buy a new filter for my camera. Wouldn’t it be a positive for me to know that another photographer I respect (like Joe Azure) seems to like his Lee Big Stop Filter? Isn’t that a lot better than just a generic ad? Especially if I see a lot of my friends endorsing one product, this may be a good signal to me that this product is worth checking out more than others.

I saw a report earlier today that said that by 2014 10-15% of online reviews will be fakes. With all the fake reviews and astroturfing out there, I’m more inclined to trust the word of a friend on a product or service, than a stranger.

This is why I don’t really use yelp anymore. Every time I go to yelp I wonder if the review I’m reading is legit or whether or not someone from India or China has been paid to write it up and give it a five star rating. When I was recently in New York City, rather than rely on a service like Yelp to figure out where to eat, I instead relied on my good friend Daniel Krieger, whose opinion I respect and know I can trust. Would a five star dinner recommendation for a new restaurant in the form of a Daniel Krieger advert get my attention? You bet it would. As a consumer, this is a win for me.

Certainly there may be things that go wrong with the implementation of all of this. What if I’m not really endorsing something but my endorsement is slapped on it? Some of this will likely have to be worked though. As far as the general idea of shared endorsement goes though, I think I like it.

Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering whether or not those sea salt and vinegar chips in the dark blue bag by Kettle Chips were the BEST CHIPS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD? Yep, they pretty much are — and if Kettle Chips wants to send a few bags of those over to our place, my daughters and I would totally be down with that. 😉

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